CITY OF COLUMBIA — Local businessmen and women, legislators and community leaders came together on November 7 to celebrate Whitley County.
It was part of the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center annual dinner, held at the Van Buren Center in the city of Columbia.
This year’s event was titled “Whitley County Shines” and focused on the people and reasons that make Whitley County a thriving community.
“We come together here to celebrate all that is great in Whitley County,” said Chamber Director Jennifer Esterline.
The evening began with dinner, provided by Chamber member Ledgeview Brewing Company and Smokehouse. Gluten-free desserts for the evening were provided by another chamber business, Moo-Over. The drinks were served by Ledgeview and E Brewing Company.
After dinner, US Congressman Jim Banks addressed members of the community gathered for the evening. In his speech he gave insights and humorous stories from the past six years in Congress. He also recognized the work currently being done and the problems facing the nation.
But Banks also said he hasn’t lost sight of where he comes from and Whitley County.
“I love coming from the city of Columbia. I love calling Columbia City my hometown,” she said. “I never forget where I come from. I have a photo of Thomas Riley Marshall throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game hanging on a wall in my office in Washington DC I have a photo of the courthouse staring back at me from my desk in my private office in Washington DC I hope that all of you come to my office and see that Columbia City is close to my heart as I represent you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving me the opportunity, whether you vote for me or not, to go to Washington and represent the city of Columbia and Northeast Indiana as your congressman.”
Esterline took the time to acknowledge the chamber board: Gary Parrett, Brandon Ferrell, Kasey Shirey, Jon South, JoAnn Bird, Dawn Boyd, Nick Brewer, Scott Duffitt, Chris Todd, Jeff Slater, and Scott Allison.
“If it wasn’t for these people, I wouldn’t be here,” Esterline said. “They had faith in me. They have tutored me. They have given me a passion for this county and I appreciate all they have done for me.”
This year marks Esterline’s first as director of the chamber, having taken up the role in February of this year.
“I came into this as a business owner. I am originally from the West Coast and took up this position at the end of February. I have had amazing mentors, especially the Kosciusko County Chamber. They have been there since day one,” he said. “I love local food, local businesses, small businesses here in our own county. Now I am in a whole new realm of being your advocate and speaker, and I love everything about the City of Columbia and Whitley County.”
The chamber also recognized its many new members this year, including Hoosier Pattern, Cochran Hauling, Lunar Infusions Kombucha, Sigma Merchant Solutions, Inspired Aim LLC, 9GB Tech, E Brewing Company, Bravery Branding “YOU”, Sugar Creek Meats & Treats, Culver’s, The Kitchen, Old Settlers Day Association, Ment for Lore Life Coaching, Youth for Christ, The Shops at the Sanctuary, Pathfinder Services, Mercury Broadband, Leeward Renewable Energy, Jesse Gordon Design, Trademark Title, Bowers Repair and Towing, Allison & Associates Insurance, Country Roads Coffee, Tri Lakes Merchant Services, and Ledgeview Brewery and Smokehouse.
Unique to Whitley County is that 70% of businesses are owned by women.
“This is something that I found incredibly remarkable for such a small town,” Esterline said. “These achievements celebrate women who have been successful in their businesses, careers, give back to the community, and serve as an example to others.”
Several Whitley County women entrepreneurs were highlighted, along with the work they have done for Whitley County. Among them were Krissy Ropp (Ol’ Hitchin Post); Niki Anderson (Andy’s Car Wash); Denise Hearld (Van Buren Events Center); Kim Shear (Coffee Pickles); Dr. Angela Cotter and Dr. Ingrid McClain (City of Columbia Optometry); Ashley Buckles (assistant to the mayor); The Ferrell Group team of Jennifer Johnson, Lauren South, Bella Reed and Kristin Sheckler; Heather Parrett (Big Gs); Nila Duffitt (Duffitt & Associates LLC); Jody Klopfenstein and Deb Roy (Crossroads Bank); Kelly Inns (Leeward Renewable Energy); Avery Sparks (Bravery Branding); Rachael Hartman (The Mail and the Mail); Jennifer Middleton (SK Love Boutique and Sun Kiss Tanning); Olivia Hinen (State Farm); Julie Hurd (Moo-Over); Kayla Wigent (Re/Max Integrity); JoAnn Bird (Running for Screen Printing); Abby McLaren (Ledgeview Brewing Company); Braya Clouse (Unique in Him); Sarah Trombley (Lunar Infusions Kombucha); Jocelyn Clouse (Country Roads Cafe); Jennifer Krider and Katelyn Morgan (The Kitchen); Michelle Slavicek (Blessed Vintage); Retta Yoder (Shops at the Sanctuary); and the LT Real Estate Group team of Tina Houser, Leanne Facer, Esther Smith, Atalie Honaker, Sara Belcher, Kim Whitsel, Heather Sanders, Jessica White, and Becca Laux.
Esterline concluded the evening by thanking the community for its years of support and for many years to come.